There's just one thing missing from Joint Ops: Wagner's The Ride of The Valkyries. Nothing else quite fits the bill as you and your team take a wing of troop-packed Blackhawks towards the LZ, crew-mounted weapons darkening the skies with a deluge of shell-cases.
Joint Ops wants to draw your attention away from two major players: PlanetSide and Battlefield 1942. This massively multi-player online shooter combines the best aspects of both: the instant hit of an FPS, a massive selection of vehicles, and vast maps littered with ammo dumps and spawn points that double as tactical objectives.
Viewed objectively, the concept is simple enough: two teams scrap it out over territory. The numbers involved are impressive; up to 100 players can fight it out at once over Novaworld (Novalogic's server system), while home-hosted servers can cope with 50 per game. And there's plenty of space to play in too, with maps that stretch over 64 square kilometres. But the aspect that has really whet our whistles is the variety of combat experiences any given game can offer.
A small map, for example, could host two compact teams of players fighting through dense Indonesian jungle. Such maps are criss-crossed with rivers, and feature villages as spawn/ammo resupply points. The element that characterises the experience is the terrain, however. When you're lying prone in your fatigues, the ground-level vegetation makes you almost invisible. We played a deeply intense two-on-two game across the office LAN in just this environment. Each player's radar highlights the direction from which sound issues, so you occasionally get an idea of where your opponents are as their weapons bark above the eerie whoops, caws and cricket songs of the jungle. Stalking is the name of the game here. Think Barnes shooting Elias in Platoon.
Now contrast this to the heavy thunder of truly mobile warfare. The Pulau Jagung Islands map sees Indonesian and US forces battling it out between two islands, separated by some five miles of open water. There's a large number of boats to commandeer, from outboard-powered dinghies to large troop-carrying gunboats with rocket and machine-gun mounts, right up to vast ferries, capable of transporting Hummers, jeeps and APCs. On the air-mobile side, there's a selection of attack and transport choppers to strafe enemy positions and get the troops to the hotspots. Factor in scores of players, and you've got a real war on your hands.
And the point of all this? To capture territory. The server can be configured with a number of different game types and victory conditions, and there's quite a choice. Set a map to the advance and secure game-type for example, and each team will have a series of spawn points under its control. These areas tend to boast vehicle pools as well, making them valuable strategic locations. To capture one of these, a team must outnumber its opponents within a certain radius of the strategic point. Once the point is captured, a friendly resupply and respawn point can be built there, thus creating a new front line for the invaders.
However, to promote tactical team-play, and to reduce the free-for-all chaos that might otherwise ensue, a team can only capture strategic points in a certain order - basically, frontline points first. Any beyond these are deemed impenetrable until the outer bastions fall. It's a great idea, as it creates a rolling series of offensives, rather than a mucky great melee.
Graphically, it's looking quite decent, if not up to the standards of Far Cry. Few games are however, so perhaps we shouldn't hold that against it. The environments are lush and verdant, and the only real let-down is vehicle interior details, which are simple and blocky, with none of the subtle detail of the world outside. But then, you don't tend to look at the mantelpiece when you're stoking the fire, do you?
Another reason why Joint Ops should be an interesting prospect is the fact that Novalogic are aiming it squarely at the mod community. The game will ship complete with a comprehensive toolset, including the designers' own game editor and 3D Studio Max - basically, everything you need to build your own games with the engine. Indeed, Novalogic are hoping that modders will tickle it into exciting new incarnations, such as a Star Wars mod. Given the current level of polish in the vehicle and weapon attributes, we can see this posing no real problems at all to the committed.
, and see what you reckon. To be fair, it's no fun with bots, as they never deviate from their set patrol routines. But join a Novaworld server with other players and you'll get a good flavour of what's on the way.
Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising is released on PC come 25 June